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10/14/2006 Archived Entry: "Knife-making workshop"

THE COOLEST THING ABOUT A KNIFE-MAKING WORKSHOP is that right from the get-go even a total n00b can produce something worth cherishing.

I just returned from three days of knife making. Came home with one gorgeous completed knife and one blade still awaiting a wrapped Japanese-style handle. This workshop was a gift from Masked Woman, an artist and enthusiastic recent newcomer to blade-crafting. It was taught by her friend and very nice person, professional bladesmith JLS. Before we went, Masked Woman told me how instantly satisfying the work would be. But given the complexities -- all the cutting and grinding and heat-treating and the workshop/forge crowded with scary-looking equipment -- I couldn't believe her until I found myself watching a knife shape emerge in my own hands.

My camera doesn't have a lens capable of taking a close-up shot, so damnit I can't post pix of my knife babies. I'll see if I can find a friend with a better camera.

But I can say for sure that if you have any curiosity about bladesmithing, don't be intimidated. Jump in. (And if you already know how to make knives, then you are a lucky dog.)

With help from Masked Woman and JLS, even I was right away able to design my own knives, cut and grind my own blades (using the stock-removal method), and grind a gorgeous contoured handle from a block of stabilized cherry-wood.

Even cooler, a beginner's knife doesn't have to be basic and undistinguished. The knife I completed is all curve-and-countercurve, not a straight line on it. It's flawed, unfortunately; on the last afternoon I scratched the blade while grinding the handle and had neither time nor skill to fix it properly. But still ... it's way more knife than I imagined making on my first venture. My own flaws also made me even more appreciative of the beautiful blades Masked Woman was already capable of making after just a few months.

Brand new though they are, both my knives also carry history. I cut and ground them from a chunk of L6 industrial-grade carbon steel provided by JLS. This steel is usually used not in knives, but in saws, bearings, springs, etc. The piece I worked with was once part of an enormous saw in a 100-year-old lumber mill, and I'll always think of that when I look at what I made. More coolness yet.

I'm so jazzed! Now, if I could just figure out how to do more of this without access to the $10k or so worth of equipment in JLS's shop. It's doable. I just need to learn how. In fact, here's a nifty tutorial on making a small, simple knife with nothing but common hand tools.

Posted by Claire @ 10:42 AM CST

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